Reflections on Making a Mark

Lightscapes / On the Lake by Jann Alexander  © 2013
Lightscapes / On the Lake, Austin by Jann Alexander © 2013

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There’s a complex explanation in physics for reflection.

Reflection is defined as “the change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two different media so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated. Common examples include the reflection of light, sound and water waves. The law of reflection says that for specular reflection the angle at which the wave is incident on the surface equals the angle at which it is reflected. Mirrors exhibit specular reflection.” Got that?

Wait. There’s more: “In acoustics, reflection causes echoes and is used in sonar. In geology, it is important in the study of seismic waves. Reflection is observed with surface waves in bodies of water. [ Italics mine ] Reflection is observed with many types of electromagnetic wave, besides visible light. Reflection of VHF and higher frequencies is important for radiotransmission and for radar. Even hard X-rays and gamma rays can be reflected at shallow angles with special ‘grazing’ mirrors.” (source: Wikipedia) Take heart: that’s it for the physics.

Physics wasn’t my strongest subject in high school.

In fact, I skipped physics. (The definition above makes the case for that far more compellingly than any reason I can offer.) Besides drawing, writing and reading, I was far more likely to be listening to the Supremes. “Reflections” is their 1967 song recorded for the Motown label. It was the first Supremes record released under the new billing, Diana Ross & the Supremes, and is among their last hit singles. It’s still wonderful to listen to. You might even find that listening to the Supremes perform “Reflections” causes you to be a bit reflective.

Reflections figure frequently in music, film, writing and art.

Reflections in a Golden Eye” brought together Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando with Brian Keith and Julie Harris in a 1967 film directed by John Huston that bombed at the box office. Melodramatic and almost campy by today’s standards, it didn’t do justice to Carson McCullers’ 1941 pioneering novel about repressed homosexuality, on which it was based. And music, film and writing aren’t the only topics covered in reflections.

Reflections in art are such a go-to subject for artists that the website Fine Art America devotes an entire category to 8,437 “reflections paintings for sale,” with somewhat predictable results. But just as every reflection is different, every interpretation is (more or less) unique. Does it really matter if the wheel isn’t being recreated with each painted reflection? That’s something that Henry Miller takes on in his book of essays, “The Wisdom of the Heart.”

“Paradise is everywhere and every road,
if one continues along it far enough, leads to it.” 


In his essay, “Reflections on Writing,” author Henry Miller looked at the impulse to create. While on a self-described “voyage of discovery,” he learned that “somewhere along the way one discovers that what one has to tell is not nearly so important as the telling itself.” He’s identified every creative urge any of us has ever had: We know we need to make something. We must write, paint, photograph, sculpt, design, create.

“What one has to tell is not nearly so important as the telling itself.” That statement could describe every photograph I make. With my camera, I need to show and record. When I write, I need to tell and share. With my paintbrush, I need to reimagine and restyle. In designing, I need to clarify and refine.

Upon reflection, I need to make my mark, and the very act of making it is the most satisfactory aspect of the making. When I made the photograph I’ve included above, I was mesmerized by the way Austin’s LadyBird Lake reflected the changing nature of everything manmade. It’s an image that, in the end, will be just as ephemeral as the reflections in the water, and as the mark I made. 

PURCHASE A PRINT of On the Lake, Austin by Jann Alexander and see more from the Lightscapes series at Austin Details Art + Photo.

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